Awareness is like having a 'third eye' that is used to observe what is going on with you, the impact you are having on others, and what is going on with others and around you. It is not something that is that natural a thing to do. It is a type of mindfulness that adds an extra dimension to what you are doing at any time in the sense that part of your mind is observing yourself, others and what is around you.

We tend to get so caught up in what is happening to us from moment to moment that we miss things that are happening within and around us. The more obvious things we either sense consciously or if something is likely to be a threat we process it unconsciously and react. In terms of interacting with others we tend to get so fixated with what we are going to say that we miss things that are going on in the conversation, only getting some of the information available.

In a conversation it is possible to suspend conscious thinking and be in a state of simply observing. This allows us to take in more information, filter it less and therefore get closer to the true reality of what is happening. This may sound simple, in reality it is not so easy as our conscious mind is not used to being inactive, it would rather be doing something, darting from thought to thought taking us away from being fully in the moment. It takes an element of trust that you will not miss something by not constantly thinking during a conversation.

Another contributing factor is our desire to be ready to say something when we feel it's our turn to contribute to a conversation. If we accept and trust that at the right moment we will know how to respond we remove the anxiety to respond. And if we don't have something to say, we can always do what we maybe should be doing anyway and be curious by asking for further information, delving deeper into what another is saying, or asking for clarification of our interpetation of what they have said.

Developing awareness can be done using meditation and mindfulness techniques, that take our conscious mind away from its day to day chatter, observing or doing something that is repetitive, such as sensing our breathing or repeating a word or phrase as a mantra.

This article on Vipassana meditation, explains how the Buddhist ancient texts liken meditation to the process of taming a wild elephant. This was done by tying a newly captured animal to a post with a strong rope. The elephant is not happy and screams, tramples, and pulls against the rope for days. Finally it sinks in that he can’t get away, and he settles down.

At this point you can begin to feed him and handle him with some measure of safety. Eventually you can dispense with the rope and post, and train the elephant for various tasks. Now you have a tamed elephant that can be put to useful work.

In this analogy the wild elephant is your wildly active mind, the rope is mindfulness, and the post is our object of meditation, our breathing. The tamed elephant that emerges from this process is a well-trained, concentrated mind that can then be used for the tough job of piercing the layers of illusion that obscure reality. Meditation helps tame the mind.

There are many free resources available on the internet on mindfulness, including guided meditations.

Introduction | Listening | Asking Questions | Observing | Awareness | Using helpful language | Reflection

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